Legal Business

The Third Wave – high stakes City deals for Akin and Cooley highlight changing tactics

With Akin Gump and Cooley securing multimillion-pound teams, a wave of new entrants to the City are re-writing the playbook for expansion in London. What is driving the new breed?

Sitting in the airport lounge at Fort Worth, Texas, flicking through magazines and eating stale sandwiches, 25 maintenance staff waited to board flights to London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong. While they were less than thrilled to be spending their weekends rewiring computers, moving desks and changing security codes for a bunch of lawyers thousands of miles from home, the woman who sent them was jubilant, having just pulled off the deal that would reposition her law firm as a genuine international player.

Legal Business

The Third Wave – high stakes City deals for Akin and Cooley highlight changing tactics

The Third Wave – high stakes City deals for Akin and Cooley highlight changing tactics

With Akin Gump and Cooley securing multimillion-pound teams, a wave of new entrants to the City are re-writing the playbook for expansion in London. What is driving the new breed?

Sitting in the airport lounge at Fort Worth, Texas, flicking through magazines and eating stale sandwiches, 25 maintenance staff waited to board flights to London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong. While they were less than thrilled to be spending their weekends rewiring computers, moving desks and changing security codes for a bunch of lawyers thousands of miles from home, the woman who sent them was jubilant, having just pulled off the deal that would reposition her law firm as a genuine international player.

Legal Business

James Roome: ‘There’s a crisis in law but not the one many claim’

James Roome: ‘There’s a crisis in law but not the one many claim’

Ever since the start of the financial crisis you haven’t had to look very far to find expert opinion pieces predicting the end of growth for law firms. The observer will tell you that this is because of the commoditisation of transactional services, the pressure of client expectations of price, staffing and delivery, new entrants in the market, cyclical downturns in the economy, challenging career paths, anti-social hours and so on.

But I consider this an overly pessimistic view based not so much on predictions of the future as on the fallout from the financial crisis. The legal profession continues to be a dynamic industry offering interesting and rewarding opportunities, particularly for younger lawyers.

If you were considering a career in the law and did your due diligence, you might wonder what you were letting yourself in for. Popular examples include Bruce MacEwen’s 2013 book Growth Is Dead: Now What?: Law firms on the brink, Richard Susskind’s 2010 book The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the nature of legal services and Steven J Harper’s 2013 book The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in crisis, to name just three.

These gloomy prognoses capture the zeitgeist. However, I would argue that the problem lies not so much in the future as the past.

Much of the extraordinary growth at the top end of the legal industry in the period leading up to the financial crisis came from growing demand for debt origination and repackaging. Each CDO, CLO, SIV and so on involved wholesale repackaging of hundreds of millions of dollars of mortgages and other loans.

Despite the astronomic numbers involved, margins were tiny, leading to pricing pressure and commoditisation. This, in turn, led to impossible client expectations and limited potential for growth in these areas. Indeed it remains hard to see growth here, even now, after six years of attrition.

And that may well be a good thing. There is little more tragic than to see squadrons of exceptionally gifted young people with fabulous degrees working inhuman hours in order to churn out standard form documents in the small hours of the night.

So don’t worry about the prophets of doom. They make their predictions on the assumptions that the problems they identify apply to the whole of the legal profession and that the problems must continue in future.

While they’re right that global law firms will be challenged to generate further top-line revenue growth in a saturated market, it doesn’t follow that there isn’t an exciting legal career for a young lawyer to embrace.

Flexible, strategic and focused practices today offer exciting legal careers and opportunities. Away from the commoditised transactional practices, there is far more high-value advisory work, litigation and corporate transactional work in London today than there was 20 years ago. This work is more interesting than the commoditised work – more challenging, more satisfying and more rewarding.

James Roome is London co-head at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

For more comment from industry leaders – see Nigel Boardman arguing that English law needs reform

Legal Business

A crisis in law but not the one many claim

A crisis in law but not the one many claim

Akin Gump restructuring veteran James Roome argues those seeing a threat to the legal industry have mis-read the markets

Ever since the start of the financial crisis you haven’t had to look very far to find expert opinion pieces predicting the end of growth for law firms. The observer will tell you that this is because of the commoditisation of transactional services, the pressure of client expectations of price, staffing and delivery, new entrants in the market, cyclical downturns in the economy, challenging career paths, anti-social hours and so on.

Legal Business

Building a base: Akin Gump launches London trainee scheme

Building a base: Akin Gump launches London trainee scheme

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is launching its first trainee scheme outside of the US in a move that will see it expand the programme established by the London office of Bingham McCutchen it recently consumed.

Following the move of 28 partners from Bingham McCutchen, Akin Gump’s enlarged London office is set to establish a programme that will induct five trainees across the next two years.

The scheme will see intakes in September 2015 and 2016, while a summer work placement programme will launch shortly for June 2015. The deadline for placement applications and Akin Gump’s training contract application process for 2017 will be 31 July 2015.

The London trainee programme will be overseen by the office’s new co-head James Roome (pictured), who set up the trainee scheme at Bingham in 2006. That office, before combining with Akin Gump, had been taking on three trainees a year.

Roome told Legal Business: ‘You need a base size before you can properly support and give good training. Our greater size here meant that we had been able to develop and support the structures for a successful training scheme. With the combined operation, we’re now looking for trainees outside the normal recruitment cycle to allow us to grow our programme to the larger scale the office can now support.’

Plans are in place to make the trainee programme more international, with London-based trainees and associates set to be able to secure secondments to overseas offices including Hong Kong which is also gaining a training scheme transferred from Bingham.

Kim Koopersmith, chair at Akin Gump, said: ‘We plan to work off the base set up by the London team who have joined us from Bingham. The team has had a lot of ideas on how to use the trainee programme to build the talent base and we look forward to capitalising on that.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Targeting Europe: James Roome set for a place on Akin Gump’s global board

Targeting Europe: James Roome set for a place on Akin Gump’s global board

London-based restructuring guru James Roome, who carried a 28-partner team from Bingham McCutchen to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld this summer, is set to boost the European presence on Akin’s global management committee.

Roome (pictured), who became the co-head of the Akin Gump office alongside Sebastian Rice following the combination, is due to start a three-year term at the start of the New Year.

Akin Gump has a simple management structure with one global board – called the management committee – and Roome will not need to be elected as partners are appointed by recommendation of the existing board members. Legal Business understands that a number of partners’ three-year terms on the 15-member management are set to end in the coming months and Roome’s position has already been confirmed internally. London-based Daniel Walsh also currently sits on the management committee which is headed by Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith, who replaced longstanding chief Bruce McLean at the start of 2013.

The firm has indicated that the London merger, which also saw lawyers in Hong Kong and Frankfurt transfer from Bingham McCutchen to Akin Gump, will be used as a springboard for expansion in Europe and Asia and Roome’s addition to the management committee will help guide that growth. The launch of a German office through the addition of Bingham’s Frankfurt partners took the firm up to eight offices outside of the US, with much of the firm’s international focus having been in Asia.

Koopersmith told Legal Business: ‘We have not finalised the composition for 2015, but James will definitely have a place on the management committee.’

She added: ‘The plan is that James will join the management committee at the start of the New Year and we don’t have to do anything structural for that to happen. Our management committee does not have slots reserved for people from different geographies but one of the driving criteria is a diversity of viewpoint so the collection of people on the management at any one time will be practice, regionally and seniority diverse.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

The $50m question – will Akin Gump’s record-breaking City acquisition pay off?

There was a rushed engagement before the union and there is unlikely to be a long honeymoon for the 26 Bingham McCutchen partners, including ten financial restructuring partners, switching to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld later this month. Such is the size of the investment the Dallas-bred giant has made, with the total number of lawyers set to transfer across London, Hong Kong and Frankfurt expected to reach around 60, the team led by financial restructuring guru James Roome will have to hit the ground running when they transfer in late October. This is, after all, a team with around $50m in annual revenue, by some yardsticks the largest team hire ever executed in the Square Mile.

The move, which Legal Business first revealed online in early September, shifts virtually all of Bingham’s London arm, minus two partners whose futures are undecided.

Legal Business

Bingham’s Hong Kong office looks set to close as Akin Gump pounces again

Bingham’s Hong Kong office looks set to close as Akin Gump pounces again

Bingham McCutchen’s Hong Kong office has been put in a precarious position with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld making a two partner hire to take the number of partners joining the firm from Bingham to 28, while remaining capital markets partner Vincent Sum’s future is unclear.

Transactions partner Mark Fucci and funds partner Anne-Marie Godfrey will join Akin Gump’s Hong Kong office, following in the footsteps of restructuring partner Naomi Moore and corporate duo Matthew Puhar and Charles Rogers.

Fucci focuses on cross-border matters and is plugged in to the transferring Bingham team’s restructuring group spearheaded by James Roome in London. Godfrey advises investment managers on the establishment and regulation of hedge funds and private equity funds.

Last partner standing Vincent Sum, who specialises in capital markets including derivatives and securitisations, is understood to not be joining Akin Gump due to its lack of activity in his practice area.

Sum’s exit would lead to the closure of what was a six-partner office, with lawyers qualified in five jurisdictions including Hong Kong, England and Wales, the US, Australia, and Ireland, in the province just two months ago. The loss would be a blow to Morgan Lewis & Bockius, which is in merger talks with Bingham, as it does not have a Hong Kong office of its own.

The London-led implosion of Bingham’s international office started with a 22-partner exit, with Akin Gump initially securing 18 partners in London, two partners in Frankfurt to open the firm’s first German office and a further two in Hong Kong.

This was swiftly followed by a further four partners making the same switch, a group that included Hong Kong-based Puhar. All 28 partners are expected to join Akin Gump within the coming weeks.

Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith said: ‘Mark and Anne-Marie are terrific practitioners who join a truly exceptional group of lawyers poised to make a tremendous impact on our firm and help strengthen our brand as a global institution.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Akin Gump finishes the job and takes four more partners from Bingham

Akin Gump finishes the job and takes four more partners from Bingham

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has continued its takeover of Bingham McCutchen’s $50m revenue London office with the hire of four more partners leaving only two partners representing the beleaguered US firm in the City.

The firm, which last week brought in a 22-partner team that pulled partners from London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong, has almost finalised plans to rebrand Bingham’s office with an Akin Gump plaque, with the two remaining partners understood to be looking to move to other firms in the City.

London-based corporate partner Vance Chapman, a private equity specialist with close ties to the esteemed restructuring practice spearheaded by James Roome, Barry Russell and James Terry, that has already agreed to join Akin Gump, moves across alongside funds duo Thomas ‘John’ Holton and Thiha Tun. The moves take the number of partners at the combined entity up to 40.

Holton’s exit will add to Bingham’s woes, with his switch as part of the London-led exodus creating the first US dent. Holton is a longstanding partner at Bingham, with 19 years under his belt, and splits his time between Boston and the City. He focuses on launching and restructuring private equity and hedge funds and adds US regulatory experience in London at a time when firms – including international juggernaut Baker & McKenzie – have sought to build such capability.

Hong Kong-based corporate partner Matthew Puhar follows fellow corporate partner Charles Rogers and financial restructuring partner Naomi Moore to Akin Gump’s Hong Kong office. His exit takes Bingham down to just three partners in the province, making it half the size it was just a fortnight ago.

Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith said: ‘The chance to welcome these additional stellar lawyers further reinforces this outstanding opportunity. This continued expansion of our capabilities and services in these critical markets is further evidence of our commitment to the development of a truly robust international platform that plays to our strengths and benefits our clients.’

Sebastian Rice, who will continue to head Akin Gump’s post-merger London office, added: ‘The arrival of this team will undoubtedly be of great benefit to our top-flight London funds practice and enhance our globally recognised corporate team.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Secured: Akin pulls off one of the largest ever City acquisitions with 22-partner Bingham team

Secured: Akin pulls off one of the largest ever City acquisitions with 22-partner Bingham team

Bingham McCutchen’s London office, which turned over $52.3m last year, will merge with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in a move that will more than double the size of the firm in the City.

Akin Gump’s 19 partner office in the City will be combined with a 22-strong team from Bingham that includes partners in Hong Kong and Germany. The move sees 10 join as partners from Bingham’s much lauded financial restructuring team and will become effective over the coming weeks and is expected to push Akin Gump’s London office into the top 20 international firms in London by turnover.

The move will bring together Akin Gump’s financial restructuring practice in the United States, led by partners Daniel Golden, Ira Dizengoff, Fred Hodara and Mike Stamer, with the London-based leaders of Bingham’s financial restructuring group, partners James Roome, Barry Russell and James Terry. Bingham’s financial restructuring team played a leading role in representing creditors in high-profile European restructurings following the fallout from the financial crisis, including the bondholders of the Icelandic banks Kaupthing, Glitnir and Landsbanki.

Sebastian Rice, who head Akin Gump’s London office, will be managing partner of the combined team, with Bingham’s London head James Roome becoming senior partner.

In total, 17 partners are set to make the switch across the City, including competition lawyer Davina Garrod, tax specialist Stuart Sinclair and former Simmons & Simmons managing partner Mark Dawkins, a litigator who only joined Bingham two years ago. The combination has resulted in a promotion for finance lawyer Mark Mansell, who moves from counsel to partner.

The switch by Frankfurt-based financial restructuring partners Christian Halász and Axel Vogelmann will also launch Akin Gump’s first office in Germany.

‘This will be transformative in enhancing our brand as a leading global firm,’ said Kim Koopersmith, Akin Gump’s chairperson. ‘The attorneys joining us are hugely respected for their strength in areas that are key to our firm and clients, including financial restructuring, finance, disputes, tax, regulatory and corporate, and will build upon our own very strong teams in these and other areas. This move also helps us diversify into key areas across Europe and Asia.’

Rice described the union as ‘strategically compelling’ in a move that will enable the combined entity to better ‘present ourselves to potential clients here in London, in Hong Kong and in established and emerging markets across the globe’.

Roome added: ‘Our financial restructuring team has, for many years, admired their stellar practice in the United States, which represents many of the same clients that we do. The combination of our practices in London, Hong Kong and Frankfurt with Akin Gump’s financial restructuring team in the United States and excellent energy, telecoms and investment funds practices in Europe and Asia will be a major step forward for our team. We are all thrilled to be part of this once-in-a-career opportunity.’

Five Bingham partners in London didn’t make the move across to Akin Gump, with private investment funds partner Thiha Tun, competition lawyer Frances Murphy, M&A specialist Vance Chapman, Elisabeth Baltay in structured financing and Thomas ‘John’ Holton, who split his time between Bingham’s City and Boston offices, left in limbo as the US firm’s management mulls a merger with rival Morgan Lewis. The exodus leaves Bingham with just one remaining partner in Germany, with transactions lawyer John Schmitz splitting his time between Frankfurt and Washington DC. In Hong Kong, four partners remain across Bingham’s corporate, capital markets, financial restructuring and private equity practices.

The move was revealed by Legal Business at the start of September, after a tough year which saw revenues fall at Bingham’s office.

Full list of partners joining Akin Gump from Bingham:

London

Competition, Davina Garrod

Corporate, Angeli Arora

Finance, John Clark

Finance, Mark Mansell

Finance, Stephen Peppiatt

Finance, Sarah Smith

Financial Restructuring, Tom Bannister

Financial Restructuring, Neil Devaney

Financial Restructuring, Liz Osborne

Financial Restructuring, James Roome

Financial Restructuring, Barry Russell

Financial Restructuring, Emma Simmonds

Financial Restructuring, James Terry

Financial Regulatory, Christopher Leonard

Financial Regulatory, Helen Marshall

Litigation, Mark Dawkins

Litigation, Richard Hornshaw

Tax, Stuart Sinclair

Frankfurt

Financial Restructuring, Christian Halász

Financial Restructuring, Axel Vogelmann

Hong Kong

Corporate, Charles Rogers

Financial Restructuring, Naomi Moore

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk